John Manchester and Bob McNamara, representing the Pennsylvania Association of School Retirees (PASR) attended the Susquehanna Community School District monthly meeting of the School Board to present a Fine Arts Grant. The two hundred dollar grant was presented to Melissa Sussman, enabling her to purchase supplies for the Saber Studio, an after-school art club that provides an opportunity for students in grades 7-12 to participate in a variety of art related activities that explore and produce some high-quality art pieces.
Kristen Lawrence was sworn in, filling the Region II Board of Education vacant two-year seat, immediately following her appointment by the board.
Superintendent Bronson Stone reported it was National School Board week and he expressed his thanks to the board members. He stated the Pennsylvania public schools are a success because nine people sit on a board for no pay, no glory and make tough decisions for the benefit of the children.
School board members approved the Professional Services Agreement between the school district and Institute for Scaling Evidence Based Education at a cost of six thousand, nine hundred ninety dollars with approximately an additional eight thousand dollars for staff. Superintendent Stone stated this is an enhanced reading program and will be paid for by title funding.
Freddy's Refuse Removal contract was approved for January through December, 2020 in the amount of nine thousand, nine hundred seventy-five dollars and forty-nine cents. Superintendent Stone said they do a kind service to the school by not increasing their rates for many years.
Upon approved clearances board members approved Dave Jenkins as a Drama Volunteer, specializing in Supporting Prop Building of the 2020 drama production.
Board members approved and accepted with regret the resignation of Nicole Crawford.
The Master Agreement between the Susquehanna Community School District and L.J. Bogumil was approved along with Work Order #1. Superintendent Stone explained L.J. Bogumil is a CoStars vendor who will be spearheading the upcoming projects of replacing the school's heating and cooling systems. The first Work Order is to replace the Chiller at the Elementary School in the amount of two hundred sixteen thousand, four hundred forty-five thousand dollars. He explained the work would start the end of January or the beginning of February and the first stage of the project would be to install the Chiller on the rooftop, followed by other elements installed inside the building. This unit is replacing a 1976 system and will be more effective and energy efficient.
Most recently a refuge for a large collection of old pianos, the old brick school on Franklin Avenue in Hallstead, long a derelict since the schools consolidation in the 1960's, will be demolished this summer in preparation for the construction of a collection of middle-income duplex homes. The project was announced at the annual dinner recognizing the accomplishments of the Susquehanna County Housing and Redevelopment Authority (SCHRA) held this year on January 17th at Oliveri's Crystal Lake Hotel.
With the destruction of the Summit in New Milford last year, the organization has found it difficult to find a suitable venue for the event in Susquehanna County. But the surf 'n' turf dinner was enjoyed, if a little delayed, by some 60 people with an interest in the success of the SCHRA at the hotel just outside the boundaries of the county on the shore of Crystal Lake.
The dinner was hosted by SCHRA Board Chairman Joe Mattis, just re-elected to another 5-year term. With Executive Director Karen Allen, Mr. Mattis reviewed the organization's accomplishments over the past year, and announced the demolition of the old school in Hallstead using a Keystone Opportunities grant of $388,000. Another grant of just under $760,000 will allow construction to begin on what will eventually be a community of 3 duplexes of 6 2-bedroom units with garages.
The SCHRA has built and operates several housing complexes across Susquehanna County, some of them subsidized apartments for low-income elderly residents, some middle-income units and duplexes. They also manage projects to help revitalize communities in a variety of ways, including new sidewalks in Montrose, Lanesboro and Thompson, and several similar projects in Susquehanna Depot. They also undertake projects to clear blighted neighborhoods and rehabilitate usable homes for resale to support their other activities. The SCHRA employs 14 people full time, and maintains a stable of contractors, attorneys and others many of which have worked with the organization for much of its 50+ year history.
The event was attended by many of the movers and shakers in Susquehanna County, including all 3 of the newly elected County Commissioners, and state representative Jonathan Fritz, all of whom have a hand in the success of the SCHRA.
County Commissioner Judy Herschel, center left, with businessman Tom Chamberlain, center right, and County Commissioner Betsy Arnold at right
The dinner culminated with generous slices of cheesecake and coffee, along with brief addresses by the various politicians, before the satisfied crowd ventured home to Susquehanna County through the cold winter evening.
A swimming pool is under construction in the parking lot. Some of the restrooms don't work. But Food Service Manager Linda Cole-Koloski still managed to provide a cake to celebrate Pennsylvania public School Board members as the Blue Ridge board assembled for the first time under its new leadership.
As usual, administrators took time out at the beginning to recognize some of their high achievers. Elementary School Principal Danelle Decker introduced Hailey Carpenetti, and Ella and Tyler Bianchi as her 5th grade standouts for November and December (Ethan Libby could not attend).
Middle/High School Principal Casey Webster announced November's Artist of the Month as Mirella Annesi. Karin Dunbar was chosen December's Student of the Month at the Susquehanna County Career & Technology Center. Her choices for seniors of the month for December could not attend, but Ben Bleck, a choice for November did appear before the Board to recite his accomplishments; he hopes to study civil engineering in college.
The business meeting that followed felt more like a workshop, with new ideas cropping up from several points around the table. Chris Lewis questioned the new president's committee assignments; he also questioned the allocation of scholarship money from the fund established by the board and administered by Christina Cosmello. A change to the board's policy manual adds a "Fundraising/Student Scholarships" committee.
A heated debate resumed following a presentation by some parents interested in a proposal introduced earlier to alter the scheduled start of classes in the fall. This time the focus was on 4-H participants who concentrate their efforts during the week of the Harford Fair.
The proposed change would start school not on the Monday following the Fair, but on a schedule that would ease students back into a new school year on a shorter week before the Labor Day holiday weekend. There didn't seem to be a consensus, so Board President Jessica Wright proposed to table further debate until the next meeting.
Ms. Wright broached another topic that may elicit further debate. She suggested that the Blue Ridge Education Association (BREA, the teachers' union) nominate someone to present before the board on a regular basis. Mr. Lewis, and board member Edward Arnold, argued that the union does not need "a place at the table."
The high school's student liaison to the school board, Gia Fiore, asked the board to give some consideration to helping students having difficulty paying for advanced placement exams. Each of the tests costs $94, and some worthy students may not be able to afford the cost. There was some discussion about paying in advance for tests that are not subsequently taken. But in the end, Mr. Lewis offered a motion from the floor to allocate $11,000 to pay for AP exams for all who request it.
Board member Joseph Andusko questioned an item on an appended bill list: almost $1,000 to Roto-Rooter. That explained the closed rest rooms. It seems that part of the sewer line at the cafeteria end of the Elementary School that was repaired after significant problems a couple years ago, has become clogged. Repairs are under way and expected to be completed over the next few days.
The board approved an extension of contracted services for speech and language support services through the end of the current school year with Lindsay Whalen at a cost of $75 per hour. Special Services Director Margot Parsons said that Ms. Whalen's case load had increased, as well as the severity of the need.
The board approved a 5-year student-teaching arrangement with Clarks Summit University.
It's bound to take a while for the new leadership to take control of the Blue Ridge School Board, particularly considering some of the hard feeling that emerged from last year's contract negotiations and the subsequent election challenges. The next meetings are billed as "Board meetings/work sessions," so that issues may not be as clearly defined as they have been in recent years. Stay tuned.